The Diamond Firetail Finch is one of the finch species endemic to Australia. It has the scientific name of Stagonopleura guttata and the common names of diamond finch and diamond sparrow.
In the wild the diamond firetail finch is found in the south-east of Australia from the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia through Victoria and New South Wales to lower central Queensland. It is not common in coastal regions.
The diamond frequents a variety of environments from grassy eucalypt woodlands, to riparian areas, open forest, mallee country and natural grassland.
This is considered a large finch with a length of 10 to 12cm and a weight of 17 grams. It is striking in appearance with its mixture of red, white and black. The bill is a bright red, and the eyes and rump are also red. The throat and lower breast are white. A broad black breast-band extends to the black flanks which are themselves strongly dotted with white. The head and back are grey and the wings an ashy brown. When considered together, the male may have a squarer, broader head and the tail may be black. Often the hen’s tails have a brownish tinge.
The flight pattern of this bird is low and direct with only slight undulations. It forages on the ground for seeds. It generally forms flocks of from 5 to 40 birds. Larger flocks separate into small colonies during the breeding season. They roost in dense shrubs or may build small nests to roost in.
The diamond firetail finch feeds almost exclusively on vegetable matter especially grass and herb seeds. During the breeding season it gains extra protein by increasing its consumption of insects.
The breeding season is from August to January. Globular nests are built in shrubby understorey or higher. They often build under hawk or raven nests.
As an aviary bird, the diamond can be aggressive with smaller species so is best housed, one pair to an aviary, with birds of similar size. Caged birds may build their own nests if supplied with suitable materials such as lengths of grass. Some will use nesting boxes, wire cylinders and logs. They will line the nest with soft materials including feathers if available. Nests may be quite large – up to 25cm – with an entrance tunnel of 20 to25cm.
Courtship includes whirring and bobbing to the female. The male will often hold a long piece of grass in his beak. Four to six eggs is the norm with incubation lasting 14 to 15 days. The birds share duties and may both sit in the nest at the same time. Juveniles fledge between 23 and 25 days and while they appear to be independent at 3 weeks, the parents may continue to feed them for a month at least.
The diamond firetail finch is listed as vulnerable in New South Wales. Luckily it breeds relatively easily in captivity.